28 November/Sunday/1st Sunday of Advent – C
Jer 33:14-16/Psa 25:4-5,8-10,14/1Thess 3:12-4:2/Luke 21:25-28,34-36
By Most Rev. Emmanuel Kofi Fianu, SVD
First Reading Jeremiah 33:14-16
I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David
See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I am going to fulfil the promise I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah:
‘In those days and at that time,
I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David,
who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land.
In those days Judah shall be saved
and Israel shall dwell in confidence.
And this is the name the city will be called:
Responsorial Psalm Psalm 24(25):4-5,8-9,10,14
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
for you are God my saviour.
The Lord is good and upright.
He shows the path to those who stray,
He guides the humble in the right path,
He teaches his way to the poor.
His ways are faithfulness and love
for those who keep his covenant and law.
The Lord’s friendship is for those who revere him;
to them he reveals his covenant.
Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
May you be blameless when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again
May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.
Finally, brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.
Gospel Acclamation Psa 84:8
Let us see, O Lord, your mercy
and give us your saving help.
Gospel Luke 21:25-28,34-36
That day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.
‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’
A careful reflection on the readings of the last Sundays of the liturgical calendar and this first Sunday of Advent shows that there is continuity in thought. The themes that ended the liturgical year are the same that initiate the season of Advent. This reveals to us that the coming of the Lord at the end time is the same as our preparation for his coming in his birth. The Gospel Reading is primarily addressed to the contemporaries of Luke who had to live their faith in the world of their time. The world situation was full of cosmic disorders and upheavals so the Gospel served as a consolation for the Christians.
In the concrete situation of the addressees of Luke, some biblical scholars hold that he was referring to the overthrow of the Gentile powers of the time, particularly the Romans. With such overthrow of power, the Son of Man would be fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel 7.13-14. In this prophecy the coming of the Son of Man is associated with the Day of Judgment and the establishment of the reign of God. Others think it is in fulfilment of the prophecy of Jeremiah that we read in the First Reading today. Whichever opinion one holds, it is clear that the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel Reading was meant to assure the people of his time that all was not negative. For those who believe in the Lord, there is hope of new life. Luke points out that the same events that are experienced by both Christians and non-Christians convey different messages to each group. For the Christians of his time, those events are meant to be signs that the hour of salvation is close at hand.
The second part of the Gospel Reading warns us about what can happen to us if we do not read well the signs of the time indicated in the first part of the reading. It is very easy for us to be caught up in speculations or give way to despair. If we abandon ourselves to the cares and pleasures of this world, they would blind us and prevent us from seeing the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus exhorts us to be vigilant and prayerful in such a way that we can make our way safely through the cosmic disorders. It is necessary to be disciplined in our behaviour so that we can remain on the right path as we await the coming of the Lord. There should be no moment when we rest on our oars for that can be the decisive moment of our salvation. It would be a great pity that after all the toils of life, we fail to reach the goal to which the Lord calls us.
Advent is precisely the time that the Church offers us to train ourselves to wait on the Lord. The Lord invites us in this season to raise our eyes and open our hearts to welcome him. We all desire a new world especially when we observe what is happening in many parts of the world today. We all desire that the peace of Christ may reign in our world instead of wars, poverty and injustice. The Advent season helps us to focus on the journey toward the birth of Jesus who is the peace of the world and the manifestation of the love of God for all humanity. Just as his coming more than two thousand years ago changed human history, our hope is that each time we celebrate his birth, the earth would be renewed. This would only happen when we all cooperate in the peace efforts initiated in different parts of the world. Our participation in these efforts may be spiritual as we accompany the agents of peace with our prayers. It can also be through our personal efforts as we promote peace in our personal spheres of life. May the Advent season be for each one of us a true journey to encounter the Lord our Redeemer.